Franklin Regional student documentary earns national award
When Colten Oakes, a member of Franklin Regional Senior High School’s broadcasting and video production class, got his camera out at the traveling Vietnam War memorial in Murrysville Community Park, he couldn’t help thinking of his grandfather, whose dog tags were hanging around Oakes’s neck.
“We were there to do a job,” Oakes said of him and fellow class members, who were creating a short documentary about the wall. “But my granddad was a Vietnam vet and, now that I’m older, I can understand a lot more of what those vets went through.”
In the same way, fellow Franklin Regional senior Cecilia Petrush began to notice the emotional weight of the subject when she was formulating interview questions for veterans.
“I didn’t want to try and ask anything too invasive, because I know it’s a sensitive topic,” Petrush said.
Both the documentary and short news package the students created about the exhibit earned them 2019 Mid-Atlantic High School Student Production awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Oakes and Petrush created a roughly four-minute news package about the exhibit, and it was largely assembled by drawing on about five hours of raw footage shot at Murrysville Community Park.
Junior Ryan Lucht had the unenviable task of sifting through all of that footage to create the 12-minute documentary, an editing process that took a little more than four months.
“It was a real challenge trying to pick stories to tell,” Lucht said . “All of the veterans’ stories were really good, and we were trying to find a balance of emotion and storytelling from those interviews.”
Lucht is a “big fan of editing, so just seeing how all the footage looked was really exciting,” he said. “I’m looking to get into film and directing, so it was a neat experience.”
For Petrush, the project, “really put into perspective the broad effects of the war,” she said. “I’m surprised by how many people locally are still affected by it.”
Multimedia teacher Becky Magness said her students are lucky to have access to the equipment and classes Franklin Regional’s curriculum provides.
“They have a chance to be really creative and do things other schools can’t,” she said.
Lucht, who also won two of Franklin Regional’s five awards from the recent Digital Media Arts Consortium’s annual award ceremony at Robert Morris College, said he’ll always be proud of the work the class did.
“As long as that award is in the (trophy) case, it’s a symbol of our achievement,” he said. “It’s a great honor.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .